From Juggler's World June 1984

Rastelli's Act...

As Bobby May Saw It In Person!

The following item originated with Billy Grace, 1970 IJA numbers champion from Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a 1961 letter to Grace from Bobby May describing (to the best of May's recollection 46 years after the fact) the act he saw Enrico Rastelli perform during the late 1920's. May, an American juggling legend in his own right and former honorary life member of the IJA, died in 1982.

I will try to explain the routining of Rastelli's act, which of course, is from memory. But I will not fantasize, and will only mention the tricks I actually saw him do. I saw him on two different occasions, and the act was a bit different the second time, with flourishes giving it a very artistic quality.

As the curtain rose, Rastelli ran forward and went into a very rapid three stick routine. He was of medium build. Francis Brunn has a remarkable resemblance to him both facially and physically, though Rastelli was slightly taller.

The three stick routine was very rapid, and rather short. It included fast triples, getting faster and being then very low. Other tricks with sticks were:
1) Passing them on the chin
2) Under throws, and throwing sticks sideways over the top
3) Very fast two in one hand with flourishes using the stick in the other hand
4) Sticks thrown straight up (no turns)
5) Slightly bouncing each stick off his head (no turns)
6) Spinning sticks on his head, last stick does two turns
7) The routine finished with a very high thrown stick doing a slow floating revolution and caught behind and between his legs, followed by a jumping pirouette in the air.

Mrs. Rastelli, who assisted him, threw him three more sticks. He then juggled the six for some time, three in each hand, in a broken rhythm. Another stick was added, which he balanced on his forehead while juggling six. Then he threw one stick backward to Mrs. Rastelli, and juggled five while still balancing one on his head (three in left hand, two in right). He finished by catching three in his left hand, and throwing one up 1 1/2 turns to catching it balanced end to end on the final stick, which was held in his right hand.

He threw a stick off to Mrs. Rastelli and went into a five stick juggle (cascade and double shower) and finished with a five stick shower.

He threw off another to Mrs. Rastelli and did four sticks in one hand, then very fast triple turns with two in each hand, then spread two and two done very wide. He did a ballet pirouette in the air to finish.

On disposing of the four sticks, he went into routines involving a mouthstick, two sticks, and a ball. I don't remember the sequence of the routine, but some of the tricks were:
1) Bouncing the ball from the head to mouthstick
2) Head back, ball on underside of mouthstick, to head up straight and ball on top of mouthstick, to ball on back of neck.
3) Kicks ball with heel after dropping backwards, ball flying over head and again caught on stick
4) Ball rolls from stick to neck, is then rolled from neck over forehead and up stick to balance on tip of stick
5) Using two mouthsticks, he transferred the ball from one stick to another and back again
6) He whipped the stick around the ball (this was very effective!), and spun the ball on the stick
7) He rolled the ball around his head and face and from ear to ear
8) Ball rolled down back of legs, thrown in the air with heels and caught again on the mouthstick

He then juggled two sticks and a ball, throwing the ball in the air, bouncing it off the floor and catching it on his feet as he did a hand-stand! He bounced the ball on his head and whipped sticks right and left under it. He bounced the ball high and caught it alternately on right and left ears. He threw the ball high and caught it between the heels of his feet. He bounced two balls on his head, and did tricks with mouthstick and two balls. He then balanced a ball on his foot, a stick on the ball, and another ball on top of the stick. He kicked the assemblage up, caught the top ball on the back of his neck, the stick in his mouth, and balanced the other ball on the stick.

Non Plus Ultra
posterIt would be rather difficult to describe the sequence of all the tricks, and there are many I don't remember, except that they were all done with great artistry and are unsurpassed by anyone!

He bounced a ball while juggling six plates and spinning a hoop on his right leg. He juggled eight plates, starting out with six and snatching two out of a holster (he later did this while balancing a stick with a ball on top).

He did a one-hand handstand spinning a pole with a streamer on the bottom of his feet, spinning a baton with streamers in the left hand and holding a stick in his mouth with a plate spinning on it.

He did a head stand on a prop, and spun a pole on his feet while juggling three sticks upside down, while slowly turning in headstand position.

Lying on his back he juggled three sticks, spun a large star on top of his foot, and spun a hoop on his leg.

I also saw him do the one hand stand spinning the pole on his feet and bouncing two balls downward on a drum.

Also on his second tour in 1928 he had put in throwing the balls in the audience and catching them in a balance on a mouthstick.

I also remember him catching a small ball about the size of a tennis ball from the foot to balance on his nose. He also did the trick with six plates, bouncing ball on his head, hoop spinning on foot, while jumping rope rotated by his wife and another assistant.